Pope Francis “begged for God’s forgiveness” for multiple abuse scandals within the Irish church but faced accusations by a former Vatican official that he had personally ignored allegations against senior clergy.
In front of 45,000 supporters at the rain-soaked Knock shrine in the west of Ireland, the pope spoke of the “open wound” of the Church’s sexual abuse scandal and demanded “firm and decisive” measures to find “truth and justice”.
Later Sunday he said Mass to tens of thousands of flag-waving worshippers at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, before heading back to Rome after his two-day visit to the former Catholic stronghold.
He also acknowledged other abuses by the Irish church, including at its so-called “mother and baby” homes for unwed mothers.
But in the centre of the Irish capital around 5,000 abuse victims and their supporters braved the weather to attend the “Stand for Truth” rally.
The scandal has dogged the pope’s visit, and intensified overnight when a former Vatican envoy to the United States accused Francis of personally ignoring sexual abuse claims against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was forced to resign last month.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote in a letter published in the National Catholic Register that he had told Francis of the allegations in 2013, but that he had responded by lifting sanctions imposed on McCarrick by his predecessor pope Benedict.
“He (Pope Francis) knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator,” wrote Vigano,” adding that “he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end.”